Saturday, September 25, 2010

Fish with Soy & Black Vinegar Sauce

I adapted this recipe from the February feature of Panda Restaurant's 2002 calendar. We had our 2001 office Christmas party at Panda Inn in Pasadena, and all of us left with a copy of their 2002 Calendar. The recipes in the calendar are selections from Panda's full-service restaurants, not from their fast food chain 'Panda Express," so are more "authentic," if you will...

The original recipe is called "Orange Roughy in Ginger Sauce," but I've renamed it because I subbed Dover Sole for the Orange Roughy in my version (Halibut or Cod are also great substitutes and hold up to pan frying better than Sole) and think that Soy-Black Vinegar is more descriptive of the prevalent flavors in this dish. Ultimately, I was inspired by the flavors that my grandfather often used in his dishes - sweet, vinegar-based sauces, that were generally not spicy - typical of the cuisine of Fukien province in Southern China. I really miss my grandpa "Ah-kung!"

3 tbsp. chopped cilantro
3 tbsp. chopped scallion
3 tbsp. minced garlic
3 tbsp. minced ginger
1 red jalapeno, seeded & thinly sliced (optional)
1 1/2 lbs. Halibut, Cod, Sole, Orange Roughy or Tilapia, rinsed & patted dry

Fish Marinade:
1 tbsp. each of the chopped cilantro, scallion, ginger, & garlic (from above).
1/4 tsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1 tbsp Shaoshing or Rice Wine
1/4 tsp. white pepper

2 cups water
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup Black Vinegar
1 tbsp. sesame oil
2 1/2 tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. Shaoshing or Rice Wine

Cornstarch Slurry:
4 tbsp. of sauce mix (from above) + 2 tbsp. cornstarch

1 cup cornstarch (to coat fish)
2 cups vegetable oil

1. Place fish in shallow dish and sprinkle with 1 tbsp. each of chopped cilantro, scallion, ginger, garlic, and marinade ingredients. Cover with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator 30 minutes to 1 hour.

2. Coat fish slices lightly in cornstarch just before frying.

3. Heat skillet over medium high heat. Add 1 cup of oil (1/2 inch depth) until very hot. Add fish slices in batches (do not overcrowd pan) and cook about 1 minute; carefully turn slices over. If using sole, it is delicate and can break apart easily so handle with care. Cook another 1 minute until fish is lightly browned. Remove to plate lined with paper towel to drain. Cook remaining fish in same manner until all done.

4. Pour out all but about 1 tbsp. oil in the same skillet the fish was cooked in and return to heat. Saute remaining ginger, garlic, red jalapenos, 1 tbsp. scallion and 1 tbsp. cilantro for about 3o seconds (reserve remaining scallion and cilantro for garnish). Add sauce ingredients and bring to a boil; reduce to simmer and cook 5-10 minutes to reduce sauce slightly. Add cornstarch slurry to thicken. Turn off heat. 

5. Place fish slices on serving dish and pour sauce on top (if you're not serving this dish immediately, place fish slices on top of sauce so that fish stays crispy). Garnish with reserved scallion and cilantro. Serve with hot white rice.

The herbage: Cilantro, ginger, garlic, and scallions.

Finely chop all the herbage.

Place fish filets in shallow plan & marinate with ginger, scallion, cilantro, garlic, salt, sugar, sesame oil & Shaohsing wine. Cover with plastic wrap & place in frig for 30 minutes to an hour.

The seasonings: Black vinegar, Shaohsing wine, sesame oil, soy sauce.

Sauce ingredients; Cornstarch slurry on the right consists of 4 tbsp. of the sauce ingredients plus 2 tbsp. cornstarch.

Here's an edifying quote from Panda's calendar on Chinese Black Vinegar: 
"One of the oldest seasonings used in Asian cuisine, Chinese black vinegar has been a trusty kitchen companion since the 12th century B.C. Although the taste is similar to Italian balsamic vinegar, Chinese black vinegar is made from fermented rice, wheat or millet rather than grapes. Its flavor is complex - smoky and slightly bitter - with a distinctive dark color. The best comes from Zhejiang on China's north coast where chefs use it liberally in braised recipes, noodle dishes and sauces..."

Lightly coat fish filets in cornstarch.

Heat oil in a large skillet.

Saute fish filets in batches until lightly browned (about 1 minute per side).

Remove cooked fish to paper towels to drain.

Pour out all but 2 tsp. of oil from the same pan the fish was cooked in. Return to heat and add remaining garlic, ginger, sliced red jalapenos, 1 tbsp. scallion and 1 tbsp. cilantro. Saute for about 3o seconds until fragrant.

Add sauce ingredients and bring to a boil. Bring down to a simmer and cook about 5-10 minutes. 

Bring sauce back up to a boil and add cornstarch slurry to thicken.

When sauce is thickened, turn off heat.

Place fish filets on serving dish.

Pour sauce over fish and garnish with cilantro & scallions). Serve with hot white rice.